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Loud, Wild, Improvised

Over eight days, 12 venues, and some unaccountable number of chords and instruments, Winter Jazzfest reigns as the premier event on the jazz calendar, with the soul of the festival a chaotic, bar-hopping whirlwind weekend marathon. Here, the 12 essential sets to catch this January 12 and 13.

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Madison McFerrin   
FRIDAY

Josh Lawrence & Color Theory
6:20 p.m.; Zinc Bar; 82 W. 3rd St., nr. Thompson St.; 212-477-9462
Trumpeter Josh Lawrence’s raucous septet is like a beer-shot combo early in the evening, full of vigor — three horns, two keyboardists — and jolting turns. Pianist Orrin Evans, busy enough as it is with the Captain Black Big Band and his recent addition to the Bad Plus, lends his experience to the young band.

Donny McCaslin
9 p.m.; (Le) Poisson Rouge; 158 Bleecker St. nr. Thompson St.; 212-505-3474
In 2016, on his 69th birthday, two days before his death, David Bowie dropped Blackstar, a surprise record seeped in mortality, brooding jazz, and futuristic pop. This band, led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin, soundtracked the Oddity’s death knell.

Madison McFerrin
10:40 p.m.; S.O.B.’s; 204 Varick St., at Houston St.; 212-243-4940
Madison McFerrin has her father’s wide-ranging vocal talent and the electronic sense of her brother, Taylor, making for a performance of looped, politically forward, one-singer symphonies.

Nicole Mitchell Art and Anthem for Gwendolyn Brooks
11 p.m.; Tishman Auditorium; The New School; 6 W. 12th St., at Sixth Ave.; 212-229-5488
Flautist and cosmic music enthusiast Nicole Mitchell is this year’s resident artist, with a grit-testing total of four, themed performances. One of her best promises to be her Friday dedication to the late poet Brooks, the first African-American woman to receive the Pulitzer. Look to the piano for MacArthur fellow and Kennedy Center artistic director Jason Moran; this seven-piece ensemble is his only date at the festival. If Mitchell’s AACM-style freakouts are your thing, consider her Tuesday performance at (le) Poisson Rouge, featuring a pre-concert conversation with Archie Shepp.

MAST
12 a.m.; Nublu; 62 Ave. C., nr. 5th St.
A Monk covers record is a rite of passage for many jazz musicians, but multi-instrumentalist Mast’s forthcoming Thelonious Sphere Monk is a bit different—at times it sounds like Aphex Twin doing “Epistrophy.” The bumpy angles of the pianist’s songwriting pair well with electronic music, and his sure-footed band, featuring Mark Allen on saxes and Anwar Marshall on drums, adds a live edge to the project.

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog
12:40 a.m.; Bowery Ballroom; 6 Delancey St., nr. Bowery; 212-533-2111
Guitarist Marc Ribot’s wildest project doesn’t mess around. The 63-year-old legend, with bassist Shahzad Ismaily, and drummer Ches Smith, merges funk backbeats with the taut chaos of Sonic Youth and flashes of Woodstock Santana. Fans of unconventional trios should just post up at the Bowery Ballroom. At 11:20 p.m., altoist Rudresh Mahanthappa, guitarist Rez Abbasi, and percussionist Dan Weiss of the Indo-Pak Coalition — a band named after immigrant-owned delis — lay down a face-melting, cross-cultural attack.


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